trekking across the Lone Star state... to Austin & San Antonio / by geoffrey nichols

eventually i departed Houston, the amazing hospitality of my good friend and all the wonderful people he introduced me to...

as we set off for Austin on thursday, we were barely 20 minutes on the road when i spied a GIANT SHRIMP on the rooftop of a shuttered roadside attraction and OF COURSE got off on the next exit and doubled back!

later in the day, i came upon the village of Carmine (pronounced, "Carmean", i learned from Vicky who owned the Pie Shack which was a tiny building moved there in 1900 and once acted as the local doctor's office where husband was born many decades ago)

upon arriving in Austin we found ourselves in the campus and specifically at the UT football stadium (which is INSANELY huge) and also unfortunately with a lodging snag... our hosts had forgotten they already had guests in route so I was forced to call an audible (sorry for the football metaphor but it seemed to fit)

i drove around aimlessly for a spell, but then found a frontage road adjacent to a large river and explored the area which appeared to be THE exercise destination as countless runners, cyclists sped past. We crossed a pedestrian bridge under a vehicular one which took as to a vast park where the Austin City Limits music festival was being dismantled. The heat of late afternoon took its toll on both of us so we meandered back up towards where we parked as i noticed a juice shop hidden behind a commercial duplex. there we met the darling Madison who informed me that YES she was named after the movie SPLASH and steered me where to find cool shops, eateries and bohemian types... South Congress.
it turned out that a very VINTAGE WHIMSY motel was located there so our lodging issue was also settled.

We strolled the area for a few hours (after resting in a ridiculously cute motel room) and indeed it Austin turned out to be everything i hoped it would be; vintage, whimsical, artistic, liberal and hip (and possessing girls with fuscia dreadlocks hula hooping beside a very popular outdoor bar)

Friday morning was blanketed in fog and then pouring rain which at first concerned me because i hurried to find indoor activities, but within the hour the scalding sun was back and i simply returned to figuring out how we'd spend the day...

after another trip to juiceland i decided to visit the uber trendy FRANKLIN'S BBQ and after standing in sizable queue learned they'd just run out of ribs AND i was an easy 1.5 hrs from dining so we drove out to another icon i'd been told about; The Salt Lick. and WOW!! about 30 minutes of driving into the countryside found us at an ABSOLUTELY HUGE venue! at any given time they can feed 860 people inside & outside (not including their special event location on the hillside above it)

a post-lunch drive through quintessential Texas country was quite satisfying and resulted in my spotting THE coolest Texaco station / Country store circa early 20th century in a tiny enclave called "Driftwood"

despite wanting to see the 40 million bats at Braddock Cave, it seemed i'd have to settle for the 1.5 million which depart from Congress bridge every night at dusk so we set up shop along with countless others and waited... and waited. but apparently this late in the season means they come out when it's dark... so they were EXTREMELY difficult to see. (but i saw them)

now there was a certain issue at hand and that was "where are we going to sleep?" because of the film festival all the hotels were either booked or ridiculously $$$ so in a huff i started heading out of town... UNTIL i decided i needed chocolate milk and stopped at gas station near a very scary Motor Inn which was COMPLETELY not pet friendly even with Pixie's therapy tag.

well, as i exited the store i noticed mural painted next door and went to investigate and learned it was painted by former Venice neighbor & friend, Jules Muck! As facebooked her where i was standing i noticed another message that had never been delivered because i wasn't actually connected to the sender BUT it was from a local who girlfriend from HIGH SCHOOL living in Holland had contacted on my behalf!
instead of driving off into the night with no destination in mind, i was soon staying in an EPIC midcentury modern compound!! (serendipity can be a very beautiful thing)

This morning Pixie and I donned our Arsenal kits and watched with scores of other Gooners (and Goonerettes) at the Austin home for our beloved club, The Tavern. I invited a couple to share our table and we became fast friends sharing numerous loves outside of Arsenal.

Next up was the drive to San Antonio which we found hosting a Red Bull Cycling event at the Alamo and explored the truly enchanting River Walk for a number of hours meeting recent Air Force grads, tourists from Nashville, transplants from NYC and of course the locals.

I'm now about turn in and ready myself for the 6hr journey to Marfa in the morning.

thanks for your interest and enjoy some of the images...